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Janet Guthrie Crashes By way of NASCAR’s Glass Ceiling at Daytona 500 in 1977

  • Essentially the most notable achievement of Guthrie’s profession in inventory automotive racing was turning into the primary feminine driver to qualify and compete in NASCAR’s largest race, the Daytona 500 in 1977.
  • She began the Daytona 500 thirty ninth within the 42-car discipline and completed a formidable twelfth, incomes Rookie of the Yr honors.
  • Simply over three months later, she doubled-up and rewrote one other chapter of motorsports historical past by turning into the primary feminine driver to qualify for and compete within the Indianapolis 500.

    Danica Patrick could have been essentially the most talked-about feminine racer in modern-day NASCAR, however she wasn’t even round when Janet Guthrie grew to become essentially the most talked-about feminine in NASCAR historical past.

    Born in Iowa and raised in New York, Guthrie took half in 33 NASCAR Winston Cup occasions from 1977 to 1980, whereas Patrick wasn’t even born till March 25, 1982.

    Essentially the most notable achievement of Guthrie’s profession in inventory automotive racing was turning into the primary feminine driver to qualify and compete in NASCAR’s largest race, the Daytona 500 in 1977. She began the race thirty ninth within the 42-car discipline and completed a formidable twelfth, incomes Rookie of the Yr honors.

    Janet Guthrie Crashes By way of NASCAR’s Glass Ceiling at Daytona 500 in 1977

    Janet Guthrie had 5 top-10 finishes in 33 NASCAR Cup Collection begins.

    Robert AlexanderGetty Pictures

    However that wasn’t sufficient for Guthrie. Simply over three months later, she doubled-up and rewrote one other chapter of motorsports historical past by turning into the primary feminine driver to qualify for and compete within the Indianapolis 500 (began twenty sixth and completed twenty ninth within the 33-car discipline, finishing simply 27 of the scheduled 200 laps attributable to engine failure). She had beforehand tried to qualify for the 1976 version of the Indy 500 however did not make the 33-car discipline.

    Guthrie by no means competed in a full NASCAR season. Her highest end was sixth at Bristol in 1977—incomes a prize of $2,200—ending forward of such stars as Richard Petty, Buddy Baker, Neil Bonnett, Bobby Allison, Ricky Rudd and even future workforce proprietor Richard Childress.

    Danica Patrick would ultimately tie Guthrie for the career-best end by a feminine in NASCAR Cup historical past along with her personal sixth-place end at Atlanta in 2014.

    Along with her NASCAR exploits, Guthrie, a college-trained aerospace engineer and pilot, would make 11 profession IndyCar begins, together with three begins at Indianapolis (greatest end within the 500 was ninth in 1978), and ended her open-wheel profession with a career-best fifth at Milwaukee in 1979.

    Whereas Guthrie was blessed with nice expertise, she fought two enemies that at instances proved insurmountable, and which finally led to such brief careers in each NASCAR and IndyCar: funding and discrimination.

    Whereas she was accepted and welcomed within the sports activities automotive world, the place she had important success for a number of years earlier than shifting to NASCAR and IndyCar, Guthrie was ostracized by many fellow drivers in each sequence—all as a result of she was a feminine. Whereas a few of her rivals could have been afraid of her expertise, others merely didn’t wish to lose to “a lady.”

    And because of the discrimination, Guthrie had a tough time attracting main sponsorship that might have helped her race extra in each sequence.

    Guthrie will flip 85 on March 7, and has lived the final a number of many years in Aspen, Colorado. She was married to the love of her life, fellow airline pilot Warren Levine, from 1989 till Dec. 30, 2006, when Levine handed away from a coronary heart assault.

    Guthrie has been inducted into plenty of completely different racing halls of fame and museums, and her 1977 Indy 500 fireplace go well with and helmet are enshrined on the Smithsonian Establishment in Washington, D.C.

    Observe Autoweek contributor Jerry Bonkowski on Twitter @JerryBonkowski

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